Bridge column, July 6: Play an honor for entry purposes
Perseverance is a great element of success at bridge. If you count winners and losers, you are sure to become a better player. In this deal, though, "gate" is the key word. How should South plan the play in three no-trump after West leads a fourth-highest heart three?
North's hand is too strong for a one-no-trump opening and not strong enough for two no-trump. But when South responds one no-trump, showing 6 to 9 points (maybe a bad 10) and fewer than three spades, North raises to three no-trump.
South starts with six top tricks: one spade, four hearts (given the lead) and one diamond. The other winners will come from clubs. However, assuming the defender with the club ace has at least one more club and learned the game before breakfast this morning, he will hold up his ace until the second round of the suit. Then dummy will have no clubs left and declarer will need a gate -- hand entry -- to reach his three club winners. What is his only entry?
South's only winner outside clubs is the heart queen. So, to retain that gate into his hand, declarer must take the first trick on the board, not run the lead to his hand. Yes, that sacrifices one heart trick, but it gains three club tricks in return. South will collect at least one spade, three hearts, one diamond and four clubs.
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